Friday, July 9, 2010

Three Cheers for Soap on a Rope

What came first? Bees with colour vision or flowers in colour? I’m reading a Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping text book and in it they as this question. Apparently the school of thought has traditionally been that coloured flowers came first, but new research suggests otherwise. How the heck can you possibly research anything that would give you that answer? It boggled my mind a little bit.

We went back to Muchaka, the children’s orphanage today. Unlike last time, when the whole purpose of our visit was to simply feed babies and play with children, we actually had to collect data today. This turned out to be much more difficult than anticipated because they don’t actually measure anything. It’s extremely hard to quantify ‘4 handfuls of sukuma wiki’ to input into a nutrient database, or to figure out how much milk they add to uji when the amount they add is based on ‘ just knowing’ how much they need. So of course we hop out of our van, clipboards in one hand, measuring tape and scale in the other, looking for exact measurements of everything but sometimes it’s just not possible. We have the densities in g/mL of about a million vegetables because often they add 1 ‘bucket’ of tomatoes or 3 ‘jugs’ of onions. We’ve been able to calculate the volume of the containers used to measure and then convert the volume into a weight of veg but it all seems a little sketch at times. We’re doing the best we can but I can’t help but wonder how accurate all this actually is, and if it even matters. Without even putting the recipes into our World Food database, we already know what we will eventually recommend. Stop polishing the maize, add more vegetables, soak the beans and maize overnight, add milk to the uji, add more types of cereals to the uji flour etc. Hopefully our data is going to be used for some greater good other than these recommendations. Yes the recommendations are important; we’ve seen in some schools that by simply adding some sukuma wiki (kale), which they already grow in their gardens, the nutrient content of the foods served sky rockets, potentially preventing deficiency diseases from occurring and curing those that already are.

Since collecting data took less time than anticipated, we actually did manage to find some time play with and feed the babies. I wasn’t exactly bouncing off the walls in excitement to feed them again after getting fired last time but I wasn’t dreading it either. (Honestly, I was more excited to play with the preschoolers on one of those play-ground features that is circular and spins really really, really fast and may or may not be called a merry-go-round (minus the horses though, and you can spin it as fast as you want). It’s essentially a giant Lazy Susan for kids to play on). Although I didn’t get fired from feeding the babies today, I did learn a valuable lesson. I am apparently lacking any maternal instincts whatsoever. I cannot feed a child if my life depended on it. We both end up covered in goop, which quite frankly grosses me out a bit. I like kids, and I like babies, but I should not be allowed near anything under the age of 2.

One thing I think is incredibly underrated is soap on a rope. The nurses are going around to a bunch of schools to give hand-washing clinics to the students. They are bringing with them boxes of soap for the schools. Each school is getting 20 kg of soap and there are 5 different schools. These boxes contain 20 1kg bars of soap that are really long, so all the bars had to be cut into normal soap bar sized portions, had to have holes drilled into them and had to have string tied around them. We now have 100kg of soap on a rope ready for the clinics. I’m sure there was a much better way to spend our last weeks worth of evenings, but it had to get done eventually. It actually made me kind of want some for my shower at home. It wouldn’t get all slimy where it sits in the dish and if it slipped out of your hand, instead of flying across the bathroom, it would stay firmly attached it it’s rope and where ever that rope was hung.

Exciting happening of today number a million was an e-mail from the UPEI swim team coach about next year’s team. Last year the schedule was pretty slack. Very few practices were mandatory, and those rules were never even reinforced. This was convenient for me since I was just kind of swimming for kicks and not competing because of my ticker but it did nothing for team spirit. This coming year is going to be way more intense. First of all, they are only taking 12 varsity swimmers on the travel team this year, and there are even tryouts! Eek! I’m a little scared I won’t lie. I’m not exactly in the best shape of my life and I won’t even be able to step foot into a pool before September 12th when I get home. Tryouts are September 7th-19th so essentially my tryout will also be my first swim since April. I e-mailed the coach and he seems to be ok with that and I think will hopefully take into consideration that I’ve been in Kenya for the 3 months leading up to tryouts but it’s still not a very comforting feeling. Needless to say I need to hardcore google body weight exercises that are good for swimming and somehow come up with a fitness regime while I’m here so that I don’t embarrass myself too badly in September. I’m really, really super excited to swim though! Even if I don’t make the varsity team, I’d still swim everyday with the club team because I love swimming. I didn’t train hardcore last year, I just kind of chilled in the slow lane working on technique and pacing at about a ‘brisk walk’, but this year I’m actually going to train hard and try to get faster than the 10 year olds that swim with the Charlottetown Bluephins. It’s a pretty lofty goal, I know, but I can dream right?

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